- June 17, 2013
Adam Michnik: No one in Poland plans to march on Vilnius
I think that people who engage Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian conflict over spelling of last names are wrongdoers. — says Adam Michnik, the chief editor of “Gazeta Wyborcza” in an interview for zw.lt. He is a guest in Vilnius, invited by his long-standing friend Tomas Venclova, Lithuanian poet and intellectualist, who was given the title of an honorary citizen of the city of Vilnius on June 14th.
Zw.lt.: Why, in your opinion, Tomas Venclova has become an honorary citizen of the city of Vilnius? What does it mean?
Adam Michnik: The great Lithuanian and European poet, Tomas Venclova, my long-standing friend, has become an honorary citizen of the city of Vilnius most importantly because he represents the mode of thinking about the world, his motherland, which I also share. It is critical patriotism. Venclova has never been afraid of telling his nation critical things that were often bitter and unpleasant to hear. He is considered to be a traitor by many people who have nationalistic views in Lithuania. Just as Miłosz was seen as a traitor by Poles.
A few months ago the Minister of foreign affairs in Lithuania Linas Linkevičius apologised to Poland for some unfavourable actions of Lithuanian MPs of the previous term of office. Last week we had the expose of President Dalia Grybauskaitė after a year of holding the office in which, in an indirect way, she spoke negatively about demands of Lithuanian Poles. Who has the ball now when it comes to Polish-Lithuanian relations?
First of all, I think positively. Of course I have read the statement of the Minister, and then the very interesting statement of the former PM Kubulius. I have heard what our Minister of foreign affairs, Radosław Sikorski, says about it. He says that for now, the ball is on the Lithuanian side. It seems to me that some kind of gesture is needed here – either in the matter of spelling of last names or in the case of bilingual notices. To be honest, I do not quite understand where does the resistance of the Lithuanian right wing circles against gestures so devoid of political meaning come from. Sometimes I think that the matter is an element of some inner conflict in the Lithuanian politics.
Don’t you think it is a minority complex of Lithuania, as a small state and a small nation?
No, I understand it and this is why for the past 20 years I have been repeating – don’t go too fast, let’s remember that Poland is bigger and that each Polish fault is ten times greater than each Lithuanian fault. I have said it many times but 20 years is enough to see that nobody in Poland plans to march on Vilnius; that nobody in Poland dreams about Żeligowski. We live in completely different times. Poland wants to be a friend of Lithuania but Polish state feels the need of taking basic care of Poles, citizens of Lithuania.
In one of the previous interviews you said that somebody in Poland makes business in this conflict. Is it only in Poland, though?
I think that both in Poland and in Lithuania. There are extreme nationalistic forces in the politics, which want to make business in this situation. We have our extreme right wing, a representative of which could say in the Parliament that the choice of Barack Obama for the President of the USA means the end of the civilisation of the white man. Maybe such absurds have not appeared in Vilnius, but there were different ones. We have to learn how to live with it and how to stand against such instances of blackmail.
Can we say, then, that the Polish right wing has the 2010 Polish Air Force crash and the Lithuanian side has the matters of spelling of last names and notices, thanks to which it can fight to win voters?
When it comes to the spelling of last names, the present situation is an utter absurd for me. I have to say that I see those people, who engage the Lithuanian state into the Polish-Lithuanian conflict because of this problem as wrongdoers, destructors. The relations should be good and in a situation when there are all possible elements to make them good –they are not. In turn, when it comes to Smolensk – in every country we can find people who love conspiracy theories and indeed, within such a theory one can prove everything: that the Earth is flat, that aliens or dwarfs rule in Kremlin. You can prove anything. In Poland it has lasted disturbingly long but I still believe that common sense will win in the country, because what is going on now is madness.
And maybe intellectuals should simply take the matter in their own hands? We had Czesław Miłosz, we have Tomas Venclova…
Intellectuals should be an independent voice in the society. Their importance and power lies in the fact that they have the courage to tell the truth and to defend freedom. In Poland and in Lithuania there are writers, philosophers, historians, artists, directors, painters, who represent very high level of afterthought. These are the people from whom we can learn. We can learn from Tomas Venclova and Czesław Miłosz, of whom I was a friend and I learned a lot from him. I understand the Polish-Lithuanian relations thanks to Miłosz and Venclova.
Tłumaczenie by Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.